Your private data is all over the internet. This is what you can do about it

If you are reading this, your personal information is probably publicly available. And by “audience” I mean everyone everywhere. It’s never a bad time to line up your internet privacy ducks and effectively “remove” yourself from the internet. But if you’re wondering how removing yourself from the internet can prevent companies from getting their hands on your data? Short answer: you can’t.

You can never completely remove yourself from the internet, but there are ways to minimize your digital footprint, reducing the chances of you… personal information being outside. Be warned, though, removing your information from the Internet, as I’ve outlined below, can negatively impact your ability to communicate with potential employers. Still interested? Here are some ways to make your digital self disappear.

1. Delete or deactivate your store, social media and web service accounts

Think about which networks you have social media profiles on. Apart from the great (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn), do you have any old accounts on sites like Tumblr? My space? What about your Reddit account? Which shopping sites have you registered on? Common ones may include information stored on AmazonGap.comMacys.com and others.

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Using a service like remove me can make you less of a headache from the internet.

Screenshot by Eric Franklin/CNET

To get rid of these accounts, go to your account settings and look for an option to deactivate, delete or close your account. Depending on the account, you may find it under Privacy or Security, or something similar.

If you’re having trouble with a particular online account, search online for “How to delete” followed by the name of the account you want to delete. You should be able to find some instructions on how to delete that particular account. (Here is how to delete your facebook account permanently without losing your photos

If for some reason there are accounts that cannot be deleted, change the information in the account to something other than your actual information. Something fake or completely random.

Read more: Best VPN Service of 2022

2. Remove yourself from data collection sites

There are companies that collect your data. They’re called data brokers, and they have names like Spokeo, Whitepages.com, and PeopleFinder, as well as a host of others. They collect data from everything you do online and then sell that data to interested parties, usually to advertise more specifically for you and sell you stuff.

Now you can search these sites yourself and then treat each site individually to have your name removed. The problem is that the procedure to unsubscribe is different for each site and sometimes involves sending faxes and filling out physical paperwork. Physical. Paperwork. What year is this again?

Anyway, an easier way to do this is to use a service like remove meFor $129 a year, the service jumps for you through all those monotonous hoops. It even checks every few months to make sure your name hasn’t been re-added to these sites.

Be warned: If you remove yourself from these data brokerage sites, you usually remove yourself from Google search results as well, making it much harder for people to find you. DeleteMe also gives you a set of DIY guides on how to delete yourself from each individual data broker if you wish to do the process yourself

3. Remove your data directly from websites

Check with your phone company or mobile operator first to make sure you aren’t listed online and have them remove your name if you are.

If you want to delete an old forum post or an old embarrassing blog you wrote at the time, you’ll need to contact the webmaster of those sites separately. You can look at the About Us or Contacts section of the site to find the right person to contact or go to whois.com and search for the domain name you want to contact. There you should find information about who exactly to contact.

Unfortunately, private website operators are under no obligation to delete your posts. So please be polite when contacting these sites and state clearly why you want the post removed. Hopefully they will actually track it and remove it.

If they don’t, tip #4 is a less effective, but viable option.

4. Remove personal information from websites

If someone has posted sensitive information about you, such as a social security number or bank account number, and the webmaster of the site where it was posted is unable to remove it, you can legal removal request to Google to have it removed.

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You may need to exercise Google’s legal powers to have your personal information removed from a stubborn site.

Screenshot by Eric Franklin/CNET

The removal process may take some time, and there is no guarantee that it will be successful, but it is also your best solution if you are in this vulnerable situation.

5. Remove outdated search results

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Google’s URL removal tool is useful for clearing evidence of past mistakes from the web.

Screenshot by Eric Franklin/CNET

Let’s say there’s a webpage with information about you that you want to delete, such as your former employer’s staff page, months after you changed jobs. You contact them to update the page. They do, but if you google your name, the page will still show up in your search results, even if your name is nowhere to be found when you click the link. This means that the old version of the page is cached on Google’s servers.

This is where this tool comes in handy. Submit the URL to Google in the hopes that it will update its servers and remove the cached search result so that you are no longer associated with the page. There is no guarantee that Google will delete the cached information for: reasons:but it’s worth trying to remove as much of your online presence from the internet as possible.

6. And finally, the last step you want to take is to delete your email accounts

Depending on the type of email account you have, the number of steps you need to take will vary.

You need to login to your account and find the option to delete or close the account. Some accounts will remain open for a period of time if you want to reactivate them.

An email address is required to complete the previous steps, so make sure it’s your last.

One more thing…

Remember to be patient in going through this process, and don’t expect to be able to complete it in one day. You may also have to accept that some things cannot be permanently removed from the Internet.

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